The Curious Case of Otomate

Otomate is, like you would expect from a company with “otome” in the title, oriented to make stuff for women…but that’s obviously not the end of the story.

Okay, slightly ranty post incoming.

Once upon a time, I started this anime called Hiiro no Kakera while it was streaming in my region…and never finished it. It wasn’t really catching my interest.

…I think this was my first brush with otome-based media, about a year before I would find Halloween Otome and free Ren’py games.

Looking at the website for Otomate made me realise I’ve actually come across them more than I’d like to admit. Sure, they make a lot of the stuff that’s so obviously for women, people outside the demographic will obviously ignore it, such as Hakuoki and Nil Admirari no Tenbin.

However, they also have franchises with more gender crossover appeal – Collar x Malice, with its upcoming anime, is a police procedural from what I know of it, while Norn9 is a pleasant laidback anime which I’d compare to a slice-of-life in tone, although it’s not. Such series are known as joseimuke (women-oriented) and due to their origins, it’s easy to conflate them with actual otome content.

…Just look at how the dark colours of these games stand out on the pink interface…and that’s just the “A Glance of the Mobile Content” section…

You might be able to see where I’m going with this from the screenshot above – Hypnosis Mic is a collaboration between certain companies, including Otomate for the game and they are not afraid to admit that when you open it up.

I’ve seen several people call Hypnosis Mic an otome franchise – particularly when it comes to the anime – because it has two women of note in the anime and “tonnes” of attractive guys (it’s only 12 guys so far in the anime, people – Touken Ranbu has more than this!) It is correct to call Alternative Rap Battle (what I normally refer to as “ARB“, which is the mobile game) a gacha game and a rhythm game, but there is no romance between the player character and any of the guys. Even in the story mode (which has an interface which is basically a visual novel’s, including dialogue choices), there is no character-specific “route”, although there are story chapters divided by division (or “groups of 3 guys”, for the unfamiliar).

Heck, according to a B’s Log article about ARB, the game was developed with a male player character in mind…because if they were a woman, they would end up having to cross the wall around the women-only ward, or some other weird but similar stuff, somehow…and they ended up with something where the player character can be taken as androgynous or masculine-presenting.

Sidebar: The name I chose for my player character in ARB is “Hikaru”, a gender-neutral name, which really sells the illusion.

Hypnosis Mic-specific gripes aside, these joseimuke series often get such a treatment and the short end of the stick from anime fans in that they only get a niche following, if at all. Sometimes, women don’t want to date a guy in pursuit of said guy’s uber-rare cards or images, but they do want a quality game which may or may not have hot guys in it and that’s what these series are for. In much the same way Banana Fish is shoujo and yaoi/shonen ai are generally considered a “domain for women”, joseimuke aren’t always otome games in origin.

With that said, what’s your favourite (or a notable) joseimuke series you’ve checked out? If you need somewhere to start with this, the Otome Obsessed post I linked has some examples.

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